The groundbreaking for the main span of the new bridge over the Mississippi River was canceled last week because federal officials were unable to get out of Washington D.C. to make the event.Â But the contracts are set and work is starting:
The New Mississippi River Bridge is part of a group of roadway improvement projects that will connect I-70 at the I-55/64/70 interchange in East St. Louis to I-70 near Cass Avenue in Missouri. The entire project will cost a total of $670 million and is being funded through a combination of federal and state funds. The New Mississippi River Bridge project is expected to be completed in 2014.
When complete, in just four years, I-70 traffic that is currently routed between the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (aka The Arch) and downtown St. Louis will now bypass the area to the North.
With I-70 traffic being rerouted we are given an rare opportunity to correct a past mistake.Â For decades the Arch grounds have been disconnected from the rest of the city.Â Many of us now share a common vision to make a better connection andÂ support is quickly growing:
“Today’s editorial in the St. Louis Post Dispatch calls for big thinking in aligning solutions for transportation and the decades-old challenge of eliminating the barriers between Downtown and the Arch. The Post suggests that the new Mississippi River Bridge is the key: this major public works project is expected to carry a lot of I-70 traffic, potentially making it possible to eliminate the depressed freeway and create a boulevard that would connect Downtown to the Arch. More details about this radical idea are available at www.citytoriver.org.
Before the naysayers get going, thought I would share: this is similar big thinking to what they did in downtown Fort Worth ten years ago. An elevated six-lane freeway divided the southern end of their downtown, cutting the downtown in two, and contributing to blight for more than forty years. When a freeway expansion was proposed by TXDOT in the late 1990’s, downtown leaders rallied around an alternative solution to instead tear down the elevated decks, and build a grand boulevard designed to slow traffic and revitalize the southern end of their downtown. This big idea was very controversial, and it took tremendous political capital, funding and even legal action to accomplish — but it got done, when many said it would never happen. Since the freeway was re-routed and the new Lancaster Boulevard opened there, millions of dollars have been reinvested in adjacent mixed-use properties, and most recently a new $200M convention hotel opened within a block of where the old elevated freeway stood. Similar projects have been undertaken to remove or reroute freeways adversely affecting the downtown experience in cities like San Francisco and Milwaukee; the effects are transformational. Today’s editorial calls for creative solutions and inclusion of this idea of a boulevard as a viable solution in the National Park Service’s Gateway Arch International Design Competition currently underway…..sounds reasonable and worth exploring to me. – Maggie Campbell Partnership for Downtown St. Louis President & CEO March 1, 2010″
Can’t get a much better endorsement than that! Still not convinced? Read on….
Last year MoDOT finally improved the ability to cross over the depressed highway lanes:
But the ramps and crossings don’t make the experience anymore inviting.
The experience of walking along Memorial Drive is anything but memorable, except that you may remember how drab it is.
Can it get any worse than the above? Why yes, it can.
Just rotate to look to the West and there between the buildings is Busch Stadium. The distance as the crow flies is 960 feet, less than a quarter mile walk.Â Before and after the 81 home games per year fans should be walking up and down Memorial Drive and spending time on the Arch grounds.Â The nearest route from Busch to the Arch grounds is along Walnut. That requires a walk of 2,570 feet to reach this same spot.Â For the new accessible crossing at Market St you’d need to walk 3,250 feet. People will walk a quarter mile but not more than a half mile each way.
Hopefully you will support the effort to remove what never should have been built in the first place!Â Many predicted disaster when MoDOT shut down 8 miles of I-64 for two years but we survived.Â This can happen. This should happen!
Please support the City to River movement:
With a competitionÂ (FRAMING A MODERN MASTERPIECE: The City + The Arch + The River 2015 international design competition) currently underway now is the time to tell everyone you know about this idea.Â Ideally we’d spend the next four years planning the work while the new bridge is being constructed.Â When the new bridge opens to carry non-local I-70 traffic then work can begin on removing the old lanes as well as lots of private development on adjacent land.
– Steve Patterson